My favorite catcher was never an All American. My favorite catcher never caught me a single day in a college or high school game. My favorite catcher is actually 31 years older than me, and I always call my catcher, Dad.
Now, you won’t be able to find his name, Mark Scarborough, anywhere in a press release, a starting lineup or recognized for any major collegiate award. But because of the impact he made and continues to make on me, I’ll always be able to find him in my memories of growing up playing softball and inside of my heart. Some of my best memories are throwing at a park nearby the house where I grew up, where we put in endless hours of time, not just pitching, but taking groundballs, fly balls and hitting.
When I was younger, I knew my dad got off work at 5pm, and I would be waiting outside in the driveway around 5:15 with his bucket, his glove, my glove, and a ball, ready to go pitch.
He had just spent an entire day at work, but was always willing to catch me whenever I needed or wanted him to, without complaining at all. He knew that it would make me happy and that we would get to spend time together. I actually looked forward to wanting to go out to the park and work with my dad; I didn’t dread it. I imagine that if I would have dreaded working with my dad, or my mom for that matter, I wouldn’t have WANTED to practice as much. But because my relationship with him was so strong, I actually wanted to practice more, creating a work ethic inside of me that is relentless today. I don’t know anything other than working hard for what I want….it’s engrained inside of me from a young age. I’ve watched my dad forever, and when I was younger, my dad LET me work hard by helping me when I needed him to, even in the moments he may have been exhausted from work.
As a family, you spend so much time together doing softball (practicing on your own, going to and from games, at team practices, at lessons, etc), and at the end of it, I came out loving him even more. Some players grow up despising their dads – not wanting to practice with them, not wanting to take their advice, and copping an attitude with their dads. That was never really the case with me, and I can tell you, it still pays dividends in our current relationship we have to this day. I love calling him and getting to have conversations with him, even though we both have a really crazy/busy schedule. It never gets old.
My dad has always had a calm demeanor, always wanting the best for me, but never going to raise his voice in order to get what he wants.
He didn’t raise his voice, because he could communicate with me in a way where he got his point across in a normal tone, and I would still hear him without him having to scream.
Looking back at all the times I worked with my dad, I can tell that he was content with himself and his own personal achievements in his lifetime; never did I feel he was trying to live vicariously through me, whether it was at lessons or games. By him having a calmer demeanor, I truly feel that it let my inner motivation develop, grow, and shine, so now it is a quality that I still possess today, even outside of pitching.
Every dad or mom is not going to have the same personality, and how they choose to handle working with their daughters will vary. But know that no matter which personality you have, you are similarly having a daily impact with your daughters where you will see effects years and years down the road. When I say “daily,” I absolutely, 100% mean daily impact.
The interactions you have now (at practices, during lessons, during games or AFTER games) are molding how you will interact with your daughter later on (when it really matters while talking about things that are outside of softball…..yes there ARE things outside of softball). It’s not about what you know, it’s about how you deliver what you know. The softball conversations, feelings and impressions you are making with your daughter now are shaping the relationship outside of softball you will have with her later.
I think the very most important part is that both parties (adult and child) figure out a form of communication and practice what works for BOTH sides.
Remember, Communication 101, is that for communication to happen, there has to be a sender AND a receiver. If you are not being heard, then you are not communicating – plain and simple.
The more you get creative and figure out a way to talk to your daughter, the more she will listen to you and the more she will want to work throughout the week; thus, creating a better player and better work ethic along the way (which lasts a lot longer than softball). The parent may have to give a little bit, and probably will have to give a little bit more than the player, because at the end of the day it’s about the player, not about the parent. And it’s about the player because you’re trying to get that player to 100% of her potential and do whatever it takes to get that to come out. So….sometimes, it’s having customizable communication plans – it could be different day to day, week to week, year to year. If one way of communicating is not working, and it’s leading to fights and unproductiveness, then it sounds like something needs to change.
One thing about my dad, is that I never felt like he was trying to PROVE anything when I worked with him – to me, to himself, or to anyone else.
When he corrected me, it wasn’t by yelling, or trying to hold above me that he KNEW more than I did. He was teaching me, not just wanting to tell me what he knew – there’s a difference.
He offered suggestions based off of observations. A lot of times he would wait until I needed help and asked for it before he gave it. When he did give it, he talked to me in a way that I respected listening to his input. He established that connection from the first times of going out to pitch that we ever had. We had conversations (two-sided) about pitching. This continued through all ages when I pitched with him, even when I would come back from college and throw over the summers or over winter breaks. I would look forward to throwing to him, sitting on his bucket with his legs off to the side so that his shins/feet were out of harms way (there’s a story to this, and my mom has a theory….later blog, on a different date!). I WANTED to throw to him. I enjoyed it; we both did. It’s some of the best times we have ever spent together.
I can’t thank him enough, and I am so THANKFUL for him and our relationship. I know I am a little bit biased, but a lot of people like my dad. He’s definitely a fan favorite. He’s awesome to be around; he knows sports, can talk business, can talk hunting or fishing, and boy, does he love his Houston sports (and the Cowboys). He’s so humble. (In fact, I know he’s going to be embarrassed when he sees this blog.)
I am so lucky that he is the way he is, because after all the time we’ve spent together, he’s had such a major, positive influence on me. He’s so hard working, and in fact, he’s one of the ones who has taught me that hard work will pay off.
It’s such a simple lesson, but when you are surrounded by someone who is truly living and breathing the hard-work-pays-off lifestyle and mentality, then only you, yourself, can take it on after seeing the rewards it reaps. He rarely, rarely complains. And somewhere along the way (maybe after watching hours upon hours of different sports on TV), he taught me what it meant to compete. He taught me a way of competing where you don’t rub it in anyone’s face – a quiet competitiveness – where you just go about your own business, doing your own thing, and prove it in your own way. There’s never a need to rub it in or say loudly what you can do. He taught me your actions speak for themselves.
It’s because of all these things that he’s my favorite catcher of all time. You can spend A LOT of time with a catcher, and the endless hours and thousands upon thousands of pitches I threw to him mean so much to me. To be honest, I can’t remember exactly what we worked on on all those different days, but what I can tell you, is the way he made me feel when I was out there doing the thing I love, getting to throw to the person I love, is what I will remember forever and ever. I felt supported. I felt like someone was on my side and on my team. I felt like I was learning. I felt like softball was fun. I felt like I had a voice. I never felt like I had to pitch; I felt like I got to pitch. He helped create an environment, where I looked forward to practicing to try to become the best player I could possibly be. Indirectly, he was teaching me to become the best person I could be, as well. In the end, it’s not about how you’re teaching to hit or teaching how to throw a change up, it’s about making a girl, with a ball and a bat feel AWESOME about herself, and like she can go out and conquer the world. I know it’s hard to think about that in a 30 minute practice, but just consider that the way you are talking to your daughter now WILL, for better or worse, have a major impact on her (and your relationship) later.
Big thanks to my mom for choosing such a great guy. I love you both so much.